Letters to the Editor, May 30, 2014

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 3:49am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 3:49am

City failing to address ethnic minority rights

A round-table discussion was organised on May 3 by the non-governmental organisation Unison and the University of Hong Kong's law department on the government's proposed policy to introduce Chinese as a second language. Under this policy, HK$200 million will be allocated annually for Chinese-language education for ethnic-minority students.

However, the actual framework for implementation has remained fuzzy and there are concerns about teacher training, accountability and other aspects of the policy.

This round-table was a consultation at which only cherry-picked individuals, including local academics, were invited to speak.

There was no promotion of the event to the public, which is within the rights of the organisers. However, once again the stakeholders - ethnic-minority students, their teachers and parents - were largely ignored by Unison, which purports to advocate for ethnic-minority rights in Hong Kong.

Unison failed to reply to Nepalese representatives who wished to take part in discussions and offer a different point of view.

It required an upset group of Nepalese teachers, students and other stakeholders to crash the session and insist on having a say before anyone would consider their opinions and what ethnic-minority students really need educationally to thrive in this city.

The students themselves eloquently made clear their point of view that the Chinese as a second language policy would be a waste of money, and that ethnic-minority students were failing in many other subjects.

The education of these young people requires a holistic vision that addresses their identities, cultures, religions, traditions, languages and the valuable differences they offer from the majority Chinese population.

In fighting for a single solution (that is, Chinese as a second language) to the many problems faced by these students in local schools, Unison has missed the point almost entirely, and sold the government a false magic bullet.

The administration seems interested only in ensuring integration and employment for members of ethnic minorities without consideration of all the other aspects of education and dignity they require to thrive here.

This may prove to be a very costly mistake for us all in more ways than one.

It is time that the government and Hongkongers began thinking deeply about the rights and needs of ethnic minorities, who are also Hongkongers, and engaged with the very people affected by government policies.

There are authentic voices, other than Unison wishing to be heard. There is simply too much at stake not to listen to them.

Dor Arie, Tin Shui Wai


After-school activities foster team spirit

I refer to the letter by Cheryl Lam ("Too many activities bad for children", May 27).

I agree that children must be given enough time to relax and to dream. However, I do not see extracurricular activities as necessarily only encouraging young people to be competitive with their peers.

I accept that some parents do impose too many of these after-school activities on their children, with the aim of helping them to get into a top school. But I see nothing wrong with trying to do that, given that children are at a crucial stage when at school and it can shape their personalities.

I think the most important thing for parents to consider when thinking about extracurricular activities is what their sons and daughters are capable of doing.

They should not have to face an after-school schedule that they simply cannot cope with. Nor should they be made to sign up to activities that they will really dislike. After all, what's wrong with parents pushing their children as long as they consider the children's interests?

Extracurricular activities don't just focus on being competitive. They also teach children about the importance of cooperation and team spirit. It is good for children to be able to interact with their peers.

Angel Li Ching-yu, To Kwa Wan



Casinos best bet for China investors

As an individual Hong Kong-based investor, I share the concerns that were expressed by Sanjiv Singh in his letter ("Corruption is harming A-shares", May 26).

It is obvious that ordinary shareholders have not been prime beneficiaries of the growth of China's public companies and price performance lags behind most other markets by a considerable degree.

Charles Li Xiaojia, chief executive of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, in his blog said that "the Shanghai-Hong Kong stock connect will be a major step in the journey towards China's financial market opening" and the internationalisation of the renminbi.

Investors' enthusiasm for mainland stocks has been tempered by worries of political interference in audit and regulatory matters.

Mr Li's through train has not yet left the station, but already there are ominous signs that this train has hit the buffers.

Your reports, "Cepa no help as Beijing set to ban city's accountants" (May 26), "Proposed audit rule may hurt investor confidence" (May 26) and "Lenient stance on fraudulent firm riles investors" (May 27), definitely do not inspire confidence that China is ready for international capital markets.

There is a waggish investor tip that the smartest way to invest in Chinese public companies is to own shares in the Macau casino operators.

Many a true word is spoken in jest, as an astonishing amount of mainland capital has been played out in Macau.

K. Y. Leung, Shouson Hill


English misuse offers lesson to learners

I refer to Alex Lo's column ("Politicians must stop abusing English", May 21).

Despite the grammatical and pronunciation flaws, I appreciate lawmaker Christopher Chung Shu-kun's courage to speak in a language he is not as comfortable with as Chinese. He did this because he wanted to communicate directly with the MTR chief Jay Walder in Mr Walder's first language.

He wanted to get across a clear message to the chief executive of the MTR Corporation that he had failed to do his job properly.

I think what mattered most about this incident was that his comments attracted a great deal of public attention and perhaps it was a good language lesson for people learning English.

We learn from our mistakes, and when it comes to a language, we can gain more knowledge from the mistakes of others.

Kerry Ho Ka-yui, Quarry Bay


Dog owners often have selfish attitude

I refer to the letter by Mike Ashton ("Dogs have a right to pee in public places", May 24).

Does your correspondent let his dog pee on his own doorstep or inside his house, as he feels it is the dog's right to spread his scent across his territory?

One thing at least is clear now: it's not that dogs can't be trained to urinate in their owners' bathroom (after all, they can be trained to guide blind and handicapped people, sniff out tumours and detect bombs), rather it's their owners' opinion that the dog has a right to pee in the street, because it's natural and an essential part of a "full" dog life.

The dog's right to pee apparently overrides our right to breathe. On the pavement of the road where I used to live, especially when it was dry, the odour of dog urine was overpowering.

As dog owners often tend to reason more from their dog's perspective than from their fellow human beings, it seems that a change in the law is needed. There should be legislation forbidding dogs from urinating in public places.

This is the only way to deal with this unpleasant and growing problem.

According to government figures, between 2000 and 2009, the number of licensed dogs in Hong Kong increased from 67,000 to 317,000.

I dread to think what the number is now.

Josephine Bersee, Happy Valley


Traffic ban will divert vehicles to other roads

I do not think the proposal to take buses and most other vehicles off Des Voeux Road Central (leaving trams and pedestrians) can work.

The idea was put forward in an effort to improve the serious levels of roadside pollution in Central. However, this is one of the busiest roads in terms of traffic.

If a ban is imposed, then cars and buses will be diverted to Connaught Road and Queen's Road and congestion there will become worse than it is already, especially during peak hours.

Bus routes would have to be modified and buses would probably take longer to reach their destinations. Passengers would therefore have to plan for longer travelling times.

With passengers unable to alight at Des Voeux Road, there would be fewer pedestrians and this could lead to loss of business for shops such as the Wing On department store.

One of the reasons for the bad air pollution in Central is the canyon effect caused by the density of buildings.

Any redevelopment plans could try to reduce that density and lower air pollution levels.

I am not denying that air pollution is a really serious problem in Central; however, I do not think this proposal will solve it.

Leo Wong Chun-shing, Po Lam